The Malta Independent 14 November 2019, Thursday

The value of saving

Thursday, 10 October 2019, 15:32 Last update: about 2 months ago

Last week we published a presentation of Gemma, the Family Ministry unit which aims to focus people's minds to savings.

As was explained in the very good presentation, it has been some time since we heard noises about pensions. There had been discussions on the third pillar and disagreement among the social partners and the government. Pensions have received a small increase and we are promised there will be more of the same in next week's Budget.

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But nevertheless, to pass from a working life to a life dependent on just a pension means, at least for those of us who do not have golden pensions, to pass from a comfortable life to a life of poverty. In fact, many pensioners are below the poverty line.

This means having to make do without many of the things one gets used to in a normal life - eating out, perhaps a trip or two abroad, buying what one needs ... Then, poof! and you have to live from hand to mouth at a time when medical expenses ratchet up.

Hence the imperative to prepare oneself in time, to save so as to find what may make the difference between a comfortable life and penury. Hence the imperative Gemma (Save).

The small and hardworking government unit has been working wonders to create an awareness of the need to save especially among schoolchildren since it is important that children learn to save from an early age.

Equally important are the billboards and other means to encourage people to be careful about excess spending come Christmas with its Black Friday encouragement to spend and get the latest gadgets. It is very important to learn to save at least a part of what one earns.

There is much here that needs to be said. First of all - invest in what? With interest rates being so low, what used to be the preferred way in years gone by for people to save for their retirement nest egg, is now no longer there.

It is this, we may say, that impels many people to become property developers, of which we have a surfeit. The idea at the back is that property is a safe investment and that property prices always rise, which fortunately is true. But if the balloon bursts and property prices go into reverse, many people will be hurt.

There is not enough information for people how to invest in stocks and shares, in bonds, and in the many investment opportunities that exist both in Malta and abroad. And the many cases where people have been tricked into going for risky and dangerous investments that turned out to be fraud, and where people lost what they had painstakingly saving all their lives, have made people afraid of such ventures.

At the end of the day, until such a time when pensions are substantially increased, the disparity between working life and life under a pension will remain and hence the need to avoid extravagant expenditure and to keep one's needs in proper perspective. As many wise persons keep saying: what matters is not what we earn but also what we spend. Keeping expenditure under strict control is always essential. 
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